Thursday, December 27, 2018

Thursday Thoughts


I'm still recovering from the four day holiday weekend - and the busy week before the long weekend!

There was a lot of cookie baking. Above are the 2018 Holiday Cookies:

  • Top row, left to right: Andes Candies Creme de Menthe Cookies, Pizzelle, Chocolate Dipped Crescent Cookies
  • Middle, left to right: Cappuccino Biscotti, Ischl Tartlets (Linzer Cookies), Cinnamon Spice Cookies
  • Bottom, left to right: Chocolate Chip, Spritz, Triple Ginger

My brother and his family were here for Christmas. It had been eight years since we were all together in Pittsburgh for Christmas, and four years since we all were together in GA for Christmas. It was really nice to have them here. In addition to celebrating Christmas, we celebrated (early) my parents' 50th wedding anniversary with brunch at Eleven and a visit to the History Center for the Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission. We also had Bethel Bakery cake & champagne.

We had a short but good visit with TX BIL and one TX nephew, which was nice. Too bad they didn't bring the Steelers luck that night! But it was still fun to watch the second half of the game with them.

We had both families here for Christmas Eve. GA niece and nephew were a big help with that, setting the table, helping cut vegetables and cheese, making dips, and even helping make dinner. GA niece is 20 now and she's living in an apartment and learning to cook for herself. She was surprised to see us blanching the green beans so we explained blanching to her and then put her in charge of sauteing the green beans. GA SIL helped a lot, too, drying and putting away dishes, niece washed dishes (her grandma's special Christmas dishes) and GA nephew carried all the Christmas dishes and glasses back to the hutch and put them away. My brother? Well he made sure the beer was cold! And he helped carry extra tables and chairs up and down stairs.

It was a super busy but really great four days. I cried a bit after they left because I miss my family. GA doesn't seem so far away, but an 11 hour drive each way isn't fun, and we are all guilty of rarely making the drive.

What We're Eating:

Leftovers from the holidays. Ham, chicken, cheese, veggies & dip, pimiento cheese, lasagna, broccoli, cookies, cinnamon bundt cake, restaurant leftovers.

What We're Watching:

It's been too busy for television. Last night we watched Venom, which was not what I expected, not as good as other comics super hero movies, yet still pretty entertaining.

What I'm Reading:

There hasn't been much time for reading, either, but I half-heartedly flipped through a couple magazines.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas / Happy Holidays! 

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

Things are finally holiday-ish around here. Probably because the kitchen is covered in flour and sprinkles! We started baking cookies.

Other than holiday activities (wrapping gifts, holiday cards, baking, cleaning the house), not much else is going on.

What We're Eating:

  • Beef & Barley Soup
  • Egg, Sausage/Goetta, Cheese, Tomato Sandwiches
  • Dessert: Holiday Cookies

What We're Watching:
Not much. We've been baking in the evenings, so no TV. Although we did watch the Holiday Baking Championship Finale on Food Network.

What I'm Reading:
Magazines.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Posana

This is a long delayed post. It's about my birthday dinner, which was back in early November when we were in Asheville. We went to Posana. We had reservations for 6 pm and were seated right away. It's cozy and romantic, lots of wood. I had was a terrific birthday meal. Here's what we ate/drank:
SP's Leaf Peeper (bourbon) and Domaine Paul Buisse Touraine Sauvignon Blanc for me.
Appetizer: Fairytale Pumpkin Beignets (confit pork shank, chamomile honey butter). Yum! I wasn't sure how pumpkin beignets and pork would work together, but eating a bite of beignet with a shred of pork was delicious.
Appetizer: Siano Burrata (plum mostarda, basil-honey oil, Spanish sea salt, focaccia). Bread, cheese, olive oil, mustard. Yum. The focaccia was really good. I smeared lots of burrata on top and dipped it in the mustard and olive oil. I would go back just for this. I ate it all, which means I was a little full for my entree.
I was starting to get my evil sinus infection, so I only had the one glass of wine. SP ordered a second cocktail: Daily Grind (bourbon, espresso). I had a sip and it was soooo good! I wish I'd been able to order one all to myself.
SP's entree: Sunburst Farms Trout (curry pumpkin, cauliflower tabouli, golden raisins, cashew, pickled onion, herb puree). He said it was delicious.
My entree: Seared Scallops (lemon-pumpkin seed jam, roasted fall vegetables, leek fondue, bacon). I had the lemon-pumpkin seed jam on the side because our server thought there was some garlic in it. The scallops were excellent.
After dinner beverage: Cappuccino.
Shared dessert: S’mores Torte (chocolate cake, toasted marshmallow, graham cracker, honey cinnamon meringue, salted vanilla ice cream). It was rich, dense, chocolaty, but so very good.

We both enjoyed the food & drink at Posana. Our server was friendly, offered suggestions, answered questions. The meal was nicely paced. We'd definitely go back next time we're in Asheville.


Posana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Pack's Tavern

Another long delayed post: Our first dinner in Asheville. We went to Pack's Tavern in Pack Square Park. We didn't have a reservation but on a Monday evening around 7 pm, we were seated right away. There's a lot of history in this building.
The part of this historic Hayes and Hopson currently known as the "South Bar" of Pack's Tavern was built in 1907 by a local lumber supply company and remains one of the oldest buildings in Asheville. As the economic climate in Asheville changed and demand for lumber grew, the company built an additional building to the north in 1912. That building is the current main restaurant and bar area. During the 1920s, the Hayes and Hopson building was an illegal liquor distribution hub. In the basement was a lucrative distribution center for moonshine. The theme of Pack’s Tavern is 1932, a tribute to the beginning of the end of Prohibition, which was fully repealed by December 1933.
SP ordered Asheville Brewing Ninja Porter and I chose Echo Bay Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand.
To start, we shared Pimiento Cheese & Bacon Deviled Eggs. So good.
For his meal, SP chose Strawberry Pecan Salad (mixed greens, fresh strawberries, candied pecans, goat cheese, cucumbers & balsamic vinaigrette). I had a few bites and liked it, as did he.
I chose Ultimate Grilled Cheese (dill havarti, creamy brie, house made pimento cheese, sliced
tomato & baby spinach on brioche Texas toast). So good. Lots of melty cheese with some spinach & tomato to make it healthy, right?!
For my side I chose Cucumber & Tomato Salad:
It was tasty but I needed SP's help to finish it after the deviled eggs and grilled cheese.

I liked the casual, bar atmosphere. I love the history of the building. The food was yummy. Our server was friendly and offered his opinions and thoughts when I was debating between a few different dishes. We'd definitely go back to try some other dishes on the menu.


Pack's Tavern Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, December 17, 2018

French Broad Chocolate Lounge

I really wanted to stop in French Broad Chocolate Lounge while we were in Asheville but it was proving difficult to find a time when we were hungry enough for a chocolaty treat. We finally went one night after dinner, not because we were especially hungry, but because it was our last chance and because the dessert choices at dinner hadn't excited me.
We ended up ordering tea and I got 2 cookies, then we sat and relaxed in the shop. I discovered on our trip that Earl Grey in Asheville seems to almost always be an "Asheville Earl Grey" which tastes floral to me, which is not a good thing as I do not enjoy floral flavors in my food. That was a little disappointing. But a hot cup of tea definitely hit the spot.

FBCL has lots of delicious sounding dessert options. They have ice cream:
Cookies:
Chocolates:
Plus cakes, creme brulee, pot de creme, mousse, trifle, brownies, and drinking chocolates - none of which I photographed. It was a little crowded so I couldn't really take time to take photos and I was trying to balance a lot of stuff on my lap and move myself in the wheelchair. So these are my photos,  which do not do the food justice, or the cute interior justice.
I got Chocolate Dipped Shortbread and Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies. Both were delicious. And pretty darn big.

It's a nice place to sit, relax, sip a hot beverage on a chilly & damp evening while enjoying a treat. Everyone is really friendly and happy. Seriously. Usually people working behind counters who must deal with hordes of customers (who at times ask lots of questions, can be picky, can be demanding) are not so happy and smiley. The guys who brought us our tea were just as happy and made sure to let us know that if we wanted more, just bring up our pot and they'd refill it with more hot water.

Definitely a place we'd return, to try more of the desserts, and to better enjoy and appreciate the lounge.


French Broad Chocolate Lounge Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Friday, December 14, 2018

Apricot-Orange Shortbread Bars

Last weekend we decided to bake these Apricot-Orange Shortbread Bars. We've made these before, usually for Christmas baking, but they do not seem to have made it onto the blog. Bar cookies are great because once you get the dough in the pan, you're done until they're done baking. No need to scoop and take cookie sheets in & out and move cookies off the sheets to cooling racks.

The recipe is from the December 2005 issue of Bon Appetit - so a old one but still a good one.
You do need a few "special" ingredients: almond paste, orange liqueur, and apricot preserves. We use apricot preserves frequently, but it seems like a flavor most people wouldn't have on hand, like raspberry or strawberry, so I'm calling it "special." The recipe suggests Grand Marnier for the orange liqueur, but we used Triple Sec.
I did all the measuring while SP prepared the pan. He mixed the dough together and pressed it into the pan while I started dinner prep. The dough is easy to make, unless your hand mixer decides to die a slow death as you are mixing. Yes, that happened to us. Sigh. Thankfully, we have an old back up hand mixer plus the stand mixer, but still, annoying.
It makes about 32 cookies. There's lots of almond and apricot flavor and a yummy shortbread flavor. I'm not sure why we quit making these for a few years because they're really yummy! We didn't make these for Christmas, we made them for our dessert this week, but since we have enough almond paste for another batch, we just might make these again next week for the holiday cookie tray.
Notes:

  • 1/4 c firmly packed almond paste was about half the 7 oz package, so 3.5 oz
  • We didn't sprinkle the final 1/4 c almonds on top since I'm not a huge fan of nuts on cookies
  • Recipe here

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Thursday Thoughts

Last week, about a minute after I made the ENT appointment, my PCP called and told me I needed to start a supplement because my lab work showed low results in a category. After hanging up, I broke down crying. I'm just exhausted and overwhelmed from the sinus infection, the not sleeping, the constant pulsating/whooshing in my ear, constantly needing a fan or the white noise machine running. I've never had such a horrible sinus infection and it's so much more draining than I would have expected. I just didn't cope well with another issue. I wanted to tell the PCP that I would not take the supplement and she can shove it up... well, you know.

But of course I'm taking it because I used the internet to discover 1000 ways I'm going to die next week from being low in this category. The supplement is HUGE. I cannot take huge pills. There is no way I can swallow this pill. There is not enough water in the world to get that thing down before I choke to death. The pharmacist said I can split it, but even split, it's big, and I hate taking a split pill because of the jagged, rough split edge. But wait! You can dissolve it in water!

My new morning routine: Eat breakfast (because you cannot take this on an empty stomach). Dissolve GIANT pill in 4 oz water for 2 minutes. Rapidly stir for 30 seconds. Chug. Add 1 oz water to remaining pill residue. Swirl. Chug. Add 1 more oz water to remaining pill residue. Swirl. Chug. If you're me, add in "Gag, choke, burp, act like you're dying." It's disgusting. Also, I cannot guzzle water. By the time I swallow my first gulp of water, the pill crud has settled in the bottom of the water and at the end of the first 4 oz, I've barely ingested any of the pill.

This lovely process results in my drinking about 16 ounces of water after breakfast/before morning  tea in order to get all the tiny pill grit rinsed out of my mouth, teeth, and the glass and down into my tummy. Then I have my morning tea. And then I spend a lot of time in the bathroom because good grief that's a lot of beverage before 11 am when you get up at 8:30 am. It was especially fun on Wednesday when I took my once/week prescription as instructed: first thing the morning with 8 oz of water, no other food/drink/medicine for 30 minutes, do not lie down. Then after the 30 minute wait, I took my other 3 daily prescription pills that I take at the exact same time every day. Then a bit later, before my banana and coffeecake, I took the ear pill because that has to be taken before breakfast. Finally I ate my banana and coffee cake. Then I took the evil HUGE supplement that requires 16 oz of water. Just imagine we coasting along on a huge wave of water on Wednesday. I almost peed my pants that afternoon. How do people drink this much?!

I guess to look on the positive side, I'm not having any problems staying hydrated.

What We're Eating:

  • Shepherd's Pie
  • Grilled Cheese (ham, Swiss, Mustard, on marble rye bread)
  • Dessert: Apricot-Orange Shortbread Bars

What We're Watching:

  • We watched The Incredibles 2. It was a fun movie.
  • We watched The Flash-Green Arrow-Supergirl three night crossover event, with a special appearance form Batwoman. It was fun but since I only regularly watch one of the three shows, I kept asking SP questions. I think he got annoyed.
  • We're watching the Great American Baking Show, Holiday Edition. 

What I'm Reading:
The magazine pile. And cookie recipes.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

LeoGreta

LeoGreta opened up last spring in Carnegie, which is where I used to live. Of particular interest to me is that Chef Greg Alauzen worked at a local Italian restaurant, Fatigati's, in Bridgeville. I have fond memories of Fatigati's. My parents would take us there, it was huge, a huge square (rectangle?) room (at least to my 5 or 6 year old eyes) and had fish on the walls - I seem to remember a swordfish? - and I think I ordered popcorn shrimp? And I got to drink Shirley Temples! Shrimp and Shirley Temples at Fatigatis and Wrights Seafood were a big deal to me as a wee little girl.
Anyway, LeoGreta opened last spring on Main Street near Third Street (which is the street my great-grandpa lived on and I remember visiting him and his tiny dogs in his tiny apartment there and he always gave me shiny quarters - you can walk from great-grandpa's place to LeoGreta).

We went last Friday, for lunch, after my doctor appointment. We got there around 1 pm and were seated right away by the front window. It was crowded, cozy, and friendly. A simple and clean interior, quaint, perhaps. I ordered iced tea, which is brewed fresh so I was happy. They also have a sweetened tea, but I had unsweetened.
Bread & olive oil. I thought the bread and olive oil were fantastic, but I'm also going to point out that I was really, really hungry! The olive oil was just that, no herbs or garlic floating in it, a lovely flavor, and fresh yummy bread. We ate 2 plates of bread & olive oil.

Here's what else we ate:
Frisée & Lardon (crisp bacon, creamy herb dressing, fried egg). Yum! I don't really like frisee, but in this creamy dressing and with bacon it was really good.
SP had the Daily Special: Pork Ragu Over Risotto. This was really good, too. We both enjoyed it.
I chose Gnocchi (baked with white & red sauce, Asiago, Reggiano). Another view:
These were tasty. I must have been really, really hungry because except for the one SP tried, I ate them all. But also, they were that good. The sauces - so good. We were too full for dessert.
We'll definitely be back. Everyone was really friendly. The food was delicious. It was cozy and welcoming and relaxing. I think I read they may be expanding into space next door. Also, I think they used to be BYOB but now they have a license and offer wines and beers and some after dinner drinks. There is street parking and a parking lot at Third & Main. If going for dinner, I'd suggest making a reservation because it's a small place and probably fills up quickly.I'm looking forward to our next visit.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Thursday Thoughts (A Few Days Late)

I didn't get to Thursday Thoughts last week. Thursday was a doctor day, and we were there for a bit. Then when I got home, I desperately needed food because it was nearly 1 pm and I had not yet eaten that day. Then, priorities. I had to choose an ENT specialist from the ones suggested by my PCP. That meant looking them up, reading reviews on several sites, looking them up in my insurance to be sure they are in network, and then finally a phone call and a long talk with a super helpful lady who helped me make an appointment for the next day. Then it was time to nap because my ear was not happy and I was exhausted form getting up earlier than normal.

Friday was another doctor appointment. I know I've mentioned I've been enduring some evil sinus crap. It started Nov. 11 and got really bad on the 14th with me hearing a pulsating/whooshing sound in my right ear. I went to Urgent Care and they said I had a bad sinus infection and prescribed 10 days of a decongestant pill and sinus spray. There was a lot of sinus draining but my ear whooshing got worse. So bad. I thought I was going crazy. It was sometimes a whoosh, sometimes a squeak, sometimes a honking noise. Sometimes so loud I thought my head was going to split open. I was not sleeping well. I tried using a white noise machine to mask the noise, but then I heard SP's snoring, so I'd put my ear plugs in to block his snoring but then I'd hear the horrendous noise in my ear. I was barely sleeping and I had a constant headache.

The 10 day plan of attack failed so the day before Thanksgiving my PCP put me on a week of antibiotics. We went ahead & hosted Thanksgiving because I was not contagious, but I had a tough time and I was exhausted and short tempered. The antibiotic plan failed. OK, to be fair, there was a wee, wee bit of improvement, but still so much pulsing and whooshing. I was carrying the white noise machine around the house.

The latest failure meant an urgent same day trip to my PCP. I had to see another doctor at the office. New plan: I had swimmers ear and needed a week of special prescription ear drops. OK. Sadly, I couldn't get the drops in myself because the bottle was super stiff so SP did it in the morning & evening and my mom came over every day in the afternoon to do it. Result: minimal improvement.

By now we're up to last Thursday, the 25th day of ear crap. My PCP said no wax, no swimmers ear, time to see an ENT. So I did, on Friday. I had a hearing test (and hear better in the sick ear than non-sick ear!). Diagnosis: A Really Bad Sinus Infection/Eustachian Tube Dysfunction. Sigh. That's been the diagnosis since Day 1, it just won't get better. New plan: a week of a steroid prescription and 2 weeks of Flonase twice a day, if not better in 2 weeks, go in again.

I'm decongesting. Still waiting on the ear pulsing/whooshing.

So that's life here. I'm a giant sinus infected blob about ready to enter the loony bin from the constant pulsating noise in my ear.

What We ate Last Week:

  • Pasta with Asparagus, Smoked Mozzarella, and Prosciutto
  • Meatloaf with Roasted Cauliflower
  • Dessert: Raspberry Shortbread Bars

What We Watched Last Week: 
The usual. I really don't remember because of my ear.

What I Read Last Week: 
My magazine pile more than doubled. Some new issues arrived plus MIL brought over a bunch of magazines she'd finished reading. I'm slowly working my way through the pile.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Hole Doughnuts

When we were in Asheville, we wanted to try Hole Doughnuts. We like doughnuts. A lot. Damaris & Rutledge went to Hole Doughnuts on an episode of Southern & Hungry and we were intrigued by the flavors. There's so much food to try in Asheville and we missed out on several places due to lack of time but we did manage to get to Hole Doughnuts as we were heading out of town. Doughnuts for the drive home!
I was already wedged into my seat for the drive home with snacks, beverages, entertainment, and blanket arranged around me, plus it was raining, so SP ran in while I waited in the car. The parking lot is smallish and can be tough to get in/out. The doughnuts are fried to order so SP was excited to watch the doughnuts being made.
He took some photos on his cell phone. Freshly fried doughnuts coming off the... doughnut stick?
The flavors when we were there. They offer 4 doughnut flavors. We got one of each to try. Back row: Vanilla Glaze and Cinnamon Sugar. Front Row: Toasted Almond Sesame & Cinnamon and Golden Beignet. We ended up being too full from my birthday dinner the night before to try any doughnuts on the drive home but we did eat them after we got home for dessert that night.
According to their website,"All of our doughnuts are made from a single yeasted dough recipe. The recipe contains organic stone ground flour from Lindley Mills, unrefined organic cane sugar, sea salt, cage free eggs and whole butter, and are fried in non-GMO rice bran oil."

Basically, that means these doughnuts are super yummy. Like we wish we'd been able to eat them when they were hot yummy. If we're back in Asheville, we'll definitely get some Hole Doughnuts again - but next time eat them hot.



HOLE Doughnuts Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Poulet Bleu

Last weekend we met a friend for dinner at Poulet Bleu. It was our second time dining there, his first. SP started with the same cocktail as last time, Sidecar, and then ordered the same wine, Gueissard Bandol Rose. The wine list no longer listed the sauvignon blanc from Touraine, so I chose one from another region: Sauvignon Blanc Fleur du Roi, Bordeaux. I didn't like it as much as the one from Touraine.

Here's what we ordered and shared:
Chips & Dip (20 grams of market caviar, french onion dip). The chips were super thin and tiny, which I liked, but they did break easily when we swiped them through the dip. I don't like caviar, so I avoided that part and enjoyed the creme fraiche dip. My companions thought a couple chips tasted stale - ? But the others were fine, and I had no problem with any of the chips I ate. This was tasty and good to share with people but I'm not sure the two of us would order it again.

Once again I ordered Parisienne Gnocchi (brown butter, confit tomatoes, mushroom ragout, pearl onions, gruyere). It was good, but not as good as last time. There didn't seem to be as many gnocchi and there was a lot of what I think was parsnip and not many mushrooms at all whereas last time there were lots of mushrooms and peas. I was disappointed.
Our friend ordered Boeuf Bourguignon, which was not on the menu last time (and isn't listed online). It wasn't quite what he expected and he said it was good but not great.
SP again chose Trout Almondine (Laurel Hill trout, haricot vert, brown butter, almonds, capers). He said it was as good as last time.

We ordered a large press pot of coffee to share with our desserts:
Fried Beignets (chicory powder, sugar, creme anglaise). These were really tasty. I shook off as much powdered sugar as possible since I didn't want to end up wearing it on my face & shirt!
We also shared a weekend souffle special: Grand Marnier Souffle. I took a lot of photos but they all seemed to come out a bit blurry. Like the chocolate souffle, there are accompaniments:
Cranberries, creme anglaise, vanilla ice cream. I'm not much for the accompaniments with souffle, I just like the souffle, which was very good.
We still like Poulet Bleu a lot, but were definitely disappointed in our second visit. I was very hot inside. It was in the 40's outside but rainy and chilly so I wore a thin long sleeve t-shirt and a thin cardigan and I was uncomfortable. I am usually cold, but not at dinner that night.

It took a long time for dinner to arrive after the appetizers & soup (everyone ordered the French Onion Soup, which was not photographed and which is still so gosh darn delicious). We had trouble catching our servers attention when we wanted anther beverage. Two of us were disappointed in our meals. Water was spilled on the table when refilling the water glasses and I didn't notice until it started to cause issues for me in my area and I had to use my napkin to wipe it up.

We will try it again and hope that service and food are better next time. Our frequent dining partners S&R are going to Poulet Bleu this coming weekend for their second or third time, so we'll be interested to hear about their experience.